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Training and Development

Diversity vs. class in UK's startup scene

Last year saw a slew of US tech companies reveal their diversity figures, and the message is clear. From the biggest 800 pound gorillas through to small startups, women are a rarity. But what about the UK?

Anecdotally the landscape is pretty much the same as across the pond; if you work in tech, you’re probably white and male, a fact pretty much confirmed by a study from StartupDNA. The report, based on surveys of 241 individuals from 222 companies, found that around a third of the UK’s entrepreneurs are female - a low score, but the report claims that “London entrepreneurs over three times more likely to be female than in Silicon Valley.”

Individuals at UK startups are less likely than their US counterparts to be Asian, but more likely be from other ethnicities, and they’re more than twice as likely to be in their mid-30s or younger. The report also highlighted how gender affects funding; the report claims men are more likely to get VC or angel funding than women, meaning it’s not a surprise to see women are more likely to be self-funded.

Class war

Unlike the US though, there’s another issue to contend with: class. The report highlights how most startups within the UK are “overwhelmingly middle-class.”

“Over 80% of start-up entrepreneurs [are] university educated and the largest group coming from backgrounds that were middle-class and from highly skill neighbourhoods,” the report says. “Whereas only 29% of the participants had parents who left school at 16.”

While having a well-educated startup scene is a bonus, it does show there’s still a digital divide to be bridged. If the technology scene doesn’t represent every part of society, you’re never going to build technology that helps everybody. This middle class streak running through the UK’s startup scene is probably why there’s more apps revolving around dry cleaning, taxis and takeaways than ones to help drive down crime and help people struggling to get by. Hopefully the government promoting coding or the BBC’s new Micro Bits scheme will help redress the balance and get a few more people with a little less blue blood in them joining the UK’s tech scene.

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Dan Swinhoe

Dan is a journalist at CSO Online. Previously he was Senior Staff Writer at IDG Connect.

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